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Getting Back to the Basics of Torque Converters

Torque Converters: Getting Back to the Basics - Gearstar Performance

Cars have come a long way from not only offering high horsepower, low emissions, but driveability which was once a bone of contention. These days, fuel economy, power, and speed can be found in auto shift-cars and for those who may have had a hard time abandoning their gearshift, there should be no second thoughts given these enhancements.

However, to get the benefits from today’s technology, you need to select the right torque converter for your automatic. This is because a torque converter does not only link the engine to the transmission, it tunes the connection to give the most power while minimizing heat.

The power of driveability and reliability lies in its hands and as such, choosing the wrong torque converter can twat your dream of a stout gear-bangin’. For this reason, if you have plans to speed up your car and get some fuel mileage irrespective of the shift pattern you’ve settled with, then it begins with falling back on the torque converter basics.

What Is a Torque Converter?

A torque converter transmits the engine’s torque to the transmission which enables you to move along the road. What this means is that it connects the power source to the load by transferring rotating power from a prime mover to a rotating driven load.

Torque converters can be found in automatic transmission vehicles and as such, they replace the clutch in manuals.

How Torque Converters Work

A torque converter’s mode of operation is similar to fluid coupling because it multiplies torque when the rotational speed is low to the point that it allows the fluid that is coming off the curved vanes to deflect off the stator.

A quality converter will minimize stall in other to prevent slushing that may lead to overheating. It can also ensure that the right power band is selected to get you into gear and the stall required is used to enable you to halt when necessary.

Major Parts and Components

The major parts you’ll find in a torque converter are impeller or pump, turbine, and stator or reactor.

The pump is similar to a centrifugal pump and it has several longitudinal fins which help to move the fluid around its outside diameter to the turbine. The turbine is connected to the drivetrain through the input shaft of the transmission and as this component moves, so does the car. The stator, on the other hand, is the fluid director and what it does, is to change the fluid flow between the pump and the turbine.

The Must-Knows

Engines and transmissions have evolved over the years, and so have torque converters that aid in the functionality of the duo. That is why you will find a number of high-end street cars today powered with the same converter that was once considered race-only converter. The latter are converters that use the same technology as steel stator designs to give them the strength to withstand the applications they are used.

Now that’s out of the way, here are some ways on how to speed up your car using the torque converter basics. Today, there are great cars with a promise of high horsepower, speed, and fuel economy, however, car enthusiasts’ expectations for these cars have also soared.

To meet these expectations, there are a number of torque converter basics that can give your car an edge in the competition with millions of others out there. The goal is to aim for the right torque converter, and not just one that is a perfect fit between the engine and the transmission. Accordingly, the basics you should keep in mind are:

Use quality fluid and filter to service your unit.

The use of fluid and filter of good quality can never be overemphasized since it can help to combat excess heat. One thing you may want to be on the lookout for is the amount of heat produced by your car since it could affect how long it services your needs.

Use a cooling system for your transmission.

A cooling system will also help to regulate your engine’s temperature and prevent overheating. Keep in mind that no matter the quality of torque converter you settle for, more priority has to be given to combat heat. Thus, this calls for a cooling system to be paired with quality fluid and filter.

Provide all the necessary information to your technician.

Torque converters may strive to achieve the same purpose, but they are not all built to fit the same car.

Your car being the same as your buddy does not mean that you can use the same torque converter as them since no two cars are the same and one size cannot fit them all.

At this juncture, it is good to know that there are companies that specially design torque converters to fit how the car will be used and the driver’s needs.

These companies have tech lines which you can use to reach out to them to provide as much information as possible about the torque converter you need to be built.

Remember, information can never be enough and the most important include rear end gear and tire size, camshaft specs, and engine size.

Use a lock-up converter.

For reliability, increased fuel mileage, and driveability, a lock-up becomes needful.

It can greatly reduce the transmission’s heating issues as a result of too much slippage from a higher-stall converter.

You’ll find a lock-up converter in an overdrive-style transmission and the converter features a clutch that when engaged, creates a near direct drive effect.

What this does is reduce slippage to a minimal level irrespective of the stall speed which, in turn, helps to combat the heat that could potentially kill the transmission.

Consider the camshaft.

Camshafts and converters have a close relationship and they may be helpful in selecting the right converter.

A camshaft can greatly determine the powerband of the engine combination and as such, it plays an important role in helping you select the converter.

Matt Kehoe from B&M, for instance, outlined that before its company can provide accurate converter recommendation, they need to know the exhaust and intake duration at .050-inch lift.

In his opinion, a 2,000 or 2,400-stall converter is a good choice when one considers cam duration up to 248 degrees.

On the other hand, a 2,400 or 3,000-stall converter is a better option for cam duration up to 268 degrees while a 3,000 to 3,600 stall converter is a good way to go for advertised cam duration over 272 degrees.

These values may look vague, but what they actually mean is that to get optimum performance, you need a torque converter with just the right amount of stall that will not generate heat.

There’s also the benefit of allowing the engine to sit idle in gear especially if a stock camshaft is used.

Determine the right stall speed, then choose wisely!

We’ve stressed the need to get the right stall speed in order to prevent overheating, but it might be difficult to ascertain when the stall is right.

That’s no longer the case when you consider a number of factors. The first is determining if your car currently has the right stall speed by determining:

        • If your car clunks when its put in gear.
        • If it slips when accelerated on the highway.
        • If it heats excessively after being driven for long.

Research all your power-adder predicament options.

Performance-enhancing add-ons such as blowers, turbos, nitrous, etc. have a unique torque curve which varies depending on the type of power adder. As a result, if you plan on using any of these, then you need to ensure that your torque converter of choice has been customized to meet that torque curve.

Bringing Speed and Drivability to Your Ride

These torque converter basics will ensure that you get a unit that is just right for your car which is one that can provide optimum performance. You will also be able to determine if the camshaft in your car is the right one and if there are needs for a replacement. It all boils down to this: there are important factors you need to consider before settling for a torque converter that will make you enjoy every minute you’ll spend on the road.

The Bulletproof Ford AOD Transmission

Bulletproof Ford AOD Transmission - Gearstar Performance Transmissions

There is the Ford AOD (automatic overdrive) transmission on one hand, and the Turbo 400 (TH400), on the other. However, car enthusiasts may be quick to settle for the Turbo 400 due to the popular belief that it is the king of performance transmission.

Nonetheless, a good number of car fanatics who have been in the game for decades think otherwise. They are even confident that the Ford AOD transmission can be the performance transmission of the 21st century. It may also be worthy to note that they are not just all about talks because certain manipulations to the AOD can turn it into a sturdier transmission with the benefit of Overdrive which can be a strong competitor with the TH400, and maybe even overtake it.

But why the Ford AOD, one may ask? We’ll get to that shortly!

The Advent of Ford AOD Transmissions

The Ford AOD transmission was evident in cars like the Mustangs, Fairmont, and LTDs around 1980 and 1993, and it was quite unique even though not in a really good way. For starters, it uprooted the Second gear in the shift pattern which left the latter dwindling in the gory land without remarkable performance. While many have pointed out that it was in a bid to curb the cost, it still had a huge effect.

On the contrary, one could still access the Second gear in a manual but that came with a headache of its own. First, you’d need to engage the lever into Drive before moving it to First gear. The result was at the expense of your bands and clutches. The Ford AOD transmission shifting problem, therefore, gave it its unreliable performance reputation.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t all bad things since there are features that will enable the Ford AOD to become a bulletproof transmission some car fanatics have been talking about all the while.

Advantages of Ford AOD Over the TH400

Unarguably, the TH400 is the king of performance transmission, but a closer look at the Ford AOD shows that it comes with more than it lets on. If these features are taken advantage of, then it can potentially offer the level of performance more than what a person would have ever believed it could.

Here’s what it looks like:

1. AOD’s lighter weight compared to the TH400:

The Ford AOD is 30 pounds lighter than the AOD because it features majorly an aluminum valve body and also offers a lightweight center support section.

2. AOD’s lighter rotating mass:

Another thing to point out is AOD’s rotating mass which is 4 pounds lighter than the TH400 and its diameter which is 1-inch trimmer. You don’t believe us, then compare the 6 3/4 inches of the TH400 with that of the 5 3/4 inches of the AOD and then do the math.

3. Sets of planetary gears in a single carrier:

Not to burst your bubble, both sets of the AOD’s planetary gears are embedded in a single carrier. On the contrary, you’ll find two sets of planetary gears as well as two carriers on the TH400. The difference between either comes with several benefits but this time around, the AOD is the clear winner.

4. AOD’s thinner pump gear:

The AOD’s pump gear in comparison to that of the TH400 is thinner. You may be wondering, how is that an advantage over the Turbo 400? The thing is, the thinner gear pump helps to reduce the drag for particular line pressure. You can also look forward to a beefier intermediate sprag on the AOD.

So with all these benefits, what’s the way forward? Read on and you’ll soon find out.

Limitations of the AOD

In order to understand what the AOD can achieve with some upgrade, it is useful to know what it can currently do and to what extent.

First, even the best Ford AOD transmission screams unreliability and that can be attributed to several reasons. AOD moves between the Drive and Overdrive in traffic which does not really speak of safety. Another bone of contention is its complicated twin input-shaft system. This system’s mode of operation is one where the outer shaft controls the First, Second, and Reverse gear clutches using the torque converter. On the same note, the inner shaft which is driven directly off the engine plays a role in controlling the Overdrive. Finally, the Third gear is divided between two shafts, where 60 percent is concentrated in a small inner shaft that is susceptible to breakable.

The setup of this system allows only 450 hp to be supported before it finally gives way to breakage. If you’ve been able to get a sturdier single-shaft arrangement which prevents the converter from locking up while in the Third and Fourth gears, then you would’ve successfully boosted the AOD into the 600hp range.

However, some car fanatics may not be totally satisfied with fixing the single-input shaft or settling with this range and may be looking at some around 1,000 hp and even more. But let’s see what the fuss is all about.

Improving the Ford AOD’s Transmission Reliability

A real-life scenario has shown that a good knowledge of the AOD transmission and valve body engineering can go a long way in improving the Ford AOD’s transmission reliability. Think of it as a transmission rebuild, but something less complicated.

An instance is the case of Len Bertrand, a car expert who has employed an AOD, the Ford parts catalog, and valve body re-engineering to create a transmission that can support over 1,200 hp. How did it come about?

1. Re-engineering of the valve body:

The first thing is a re-engineering of the valve body to engage the Reverse and Third clutches at the same time when the AOD is in its Third gear. As a result, the stress on the small inner input shaft is reduced.

2. Locking the Reverse sun gear to the Forward sun gear:

Another modification is in the forward sun gear. Instead of locking only the Third-Fourth planetary carrier to the forward sun gear, the Reverse sun gear can also be locked to it. What this does is to enable the transmission to trigger the beefy end of the input shaft.

Benefits of Modifications

With these two arrangements in place, you can get a 58.5 percent more clutch area in comparison to the TH400 just by using this setup. That being the case, you can also look forward to twice the power potential of the Turbo 400 which is suitable for street and race applications. And hey, you may have successfully eliminated the problem of the AOD bopping into the Drive and Overdrive which in traffic. Pick a gear and you’ll be sure that it’ll stay there. In addition, you will be able to upshift automatically and manually depending on what you’re out to get and not because you have been limited on an auto box.

Conclusion

The bulletproof nature of the Ford AOD transmission can be unraveled just by knowing the right buttons to push. When that has been put in place, you can boost its performance from about 400 hp to as high as 1,200 hp which makes for excellent speed while racing. There’s also no longer the option of whether to settle for a manual or automatic just to be able to upshift since either can now ensure that you can. What’s even better, is the potential the Ford AOD has in overtaking the TH400 performance transmission.

Essential Tips When Choosing a Performance Transmission Technician/Shop

Choosing a Performance Transmission Technician - Gearstar Performance Transmissions

Have you ever found yourself wondering how to find the best performance transmission technician or shop out there? We know we have at some point. Like us, you may have also realized that performance upgrades don’t come cheap especially when you consider the fact that you could be spending around $1000 to $4000, if not more. The money might be the least to worry about when there’s also the potential of ending up with an engine or trans that is worse off than what you began with. These risks and many more can be averted by arming yourself with some essential tips when choosing a performance transmission technician/shop.

But wait a second; unlike local transmission repair shops, you’ll be focusing on technicians that can make your car use its power optimally in order to give high-speed and long distance driving. You also need a trustworthy professional who can handle the heart of your car to give you satisfaction and worry-free.

So, how can you find a good performance transmission shop? Read on, we’ll tell you in a bit!

Who Is a Transmission Technician?

Transmission technicians are also known as mechanics. They focus on the diagnostic, repair and maintenance of couplings, hydraulic pumps, as well as gear trains of transmission systems. These car experts that are believed to know automobile transmissions like the back of their hand and as such, they can easily spot out the problem and its possible solution. Therefore, the job in itself is quite important because, without the transmission, the car will not start. That aside, mechanics, work in an auto dealership, auto repair shop, or a specialty transmission repair shop.

Tips to Consider When Choosing a Performance Transmission Technician/Shop

Unarguably, there are several honest, reliable, and independent transmission technicians who are not just out for what they can get out of your wallet. On the contrary, there are some that are only out for what they can get from you.

But how can you tell the difference? By giving the tips we’ve outlined below your utmost consideration before taking your car to a performance technician or shop.

1. Get Recommendations

Unarguably, there are performance transmission shops near your location, however, you are not just going to settle for just about anyone. A better option is to rely on the experience already garnered by your family, friends, colleagues and other mechanics. Give or take, they may have also employed the services of the shop either for a transmission repair, brake repair, or some other services. Thus, they can point you to a professional technician or shop and also recommend shops with fair prices and good customer service.

2. Use a Shop Linked to Larger Company or Association

After getting a reference from family, friends, and online sources, you may want to take the extra step to check if the transmission shop is linked to a larger company or association through its certification since it may go a long way to show its credibility. That being the case, you need to consider if the technician has been certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). If so, it goes to show that they took the extra step to guarantee customers of their professionalism. On top of that, you can be on the lookout for technicians that have been certified by the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATRA). ATRA is a test for transmission specialists and the difficulty that comes with obtaining it means the technician/shop has been rigorously examined.

Now if the shop meets either requirement,  you may be more confident that your car is in the right hands.

3. Use a Vocational School

If you still want the best performance upgrade for your car transmission and your budget is not really on the high side, finding a vocational school can also be helpful. Here, you’ll be relying on the expertise of students who work under a certified teacher to enhance your car’s acceleration. A school of this nature comes with the perk of lowering the cost even though it may take a longer time to have your transmission worked on. Therefore, if you’re not in a haste and on a low-budget, but still want a considerable amount of work to be done, then vocational schools and colleges will be a good choice.

4. Get an Estimate

If you’ve planned on settling for a particular car repair shop, then it would be a great move to get a written estimate from the mechanic even before work begins. What this does is to insure you against fees which may spring up by surprise. The good thing here is, a mechanic cannot add additional cost to what was already estimated since it is illegal to do so.

Now, an experienced transmission shop will be able to ascertain how much is required to boost your car’s performance and then give you a rough estimate of the cost of the parts and labor that will be needed for the enhancements.

5. Avoid Cheap or Overly Expensive Services

In a bid to find transmission shops near you, be sure not to settle for one that is extremely expensive or cheap. It may be expensive but that does not mean that the shop is being honest to you since it could be a rip-off. Hey, you may not be able to tell since a bunch of services might be thrown in to give you the impression that you need them when in actuality, you don’t.

The same can be said about shops that offer cheap service since they may end up not buying quality parts to fix your car. The quality of work may end up being sloppy and in the end, you may be left with a car whose performance is far from impressive.

Conclusion

Now that you know the essential tips to consider when choosing a performance transmission technician/shop, you can be sure that your care is in the best hands. You do not have to hold out on professionalism or settle for an overtly cheap or expensive service in order to find a credible mechanic.

The bottom line is this: Your car’s performance can be enhanced if you give the recommendations we have outlined above your utmost consideration while in your quest to find a reliable transmission repair shop in near your location.

4L60E Transmission Mods That You Can Count On

4L60E Transmission Mods That You Can Count On - Gearstar Performance

It is every car lover’s dream for their vehicle to be fast, optimally use fuel, and offer an acceptable level of performance. One way each of these can be made possible is through simple 4L60E performance transmission upgrades.

Now, the automatic transmission has come a long way because, for almost 40 years, car manufacturers have had their fair share of hassle while trying to design the best fuel economy engine. Their attempts are evident in the use of a computer-operated carburetors and even an electronic throttle body fuel injection in a bid to slow down fuel consumption.

These aside, there are 4L60E mods that can make your car the dream ride you’ve envisioned and that is why we’ve outlined some upgrades which you can definitely count on to build a performance car with the toughest transmission.

History of the 4L60E Transmission

Before the advent of the 4L60E transmission, car manufacturers had a bone of contention while striving to bring about a vehicle’s fuel economy.

General Motors, for instance, devised the Turbo-Hydramatic 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission in 1982 as an upgrade to the TH350 three-speed automatic.

The 700R4 was quite unique in comparison with previous models which were designed by the company. This is because its shift modulation was carried out with the use of a device known as the throttle valve (TV) cable.

While the TV cable was able to modulate shift programming using throttle position and vehicle speed, it was still unable to bring about a perfect balance between fuel economy, driveability, and longevity.

Another problem that was posed, is irregularities in the line pressure and timing when a car owner improperly adjusts the TV cable. The latter could potentially lead to the 700R4 transmission being burnt.

Years later, the 700R4 was appended to 4L60 where the “4” denotes “four-speed”, “L” for “longitudinal installation,” and “6” for “light-to-medium-duty use and 6,000-pounds gross vehicle weight.” Despite this, the problem of shift programming which was evident in the 700R4 also reared its ugly head in the 4L60.

This led to the development of 4L60E, a computer-controlled transmission that is still based on the 700R4. The new 4L60E featured a powertrain control module (PCM) which is able to control shifts using the feedback provided by the throttle position sensor (TPS), vehicle speed sensor (VSS), and other sensors.

Today, you can find the 4L60E transmissions in GM vehicles such as:

  • Chevy Camaro
  • Chevy Silverado
  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Pontiac Trans Am

Now that’s out of the way, let’s show you a step by step 4L60E transmission rebuild.

4L60E Mods for Performance Enthusiasts

There are several 4L60E mods you can count on as a performance enthusiast, but no matter how tempting it may be to do it yourself, you need to ensure that you are a transmission builder who has garnered a lot of experience.

If that isn’t feasible, then you’re better off letting a mechanic do the work for you. Accordingly, highlighted below are some of performance upgrades for greater torque capacity which you can try out.

Keep in mind that the goal is to increase the torque capacity to handle 400-500 horsepower. Now, let’s dive in:

  1. Lay out the important parts on an assembly bench.
    As a rule, always lay out the high-performance parts on an assembly bench in order to ensure that you do not miss out on the parts that are in dire need of enhancement. You can then proceed to thoroughly clean, inspect, and paint the transmission core.
  2. Rebuild with an improved, thicker sun shell.
    4L60E has a weakness and that is the factory sun reaction shell where it breaks around the hub and will, therefore, not stand the test of time. On the other hand, 4L60E builds carried out with a thicker sun shell that is stronger can prevent failure.
  3. Use five-pinion front/rear planetary.
    An OEM five-pinion front/rear planet will help to increase the torque capacity and distribute the torque across a larger mechanical surface area. It will also enable your 4L60E transmission to handle 400-500 horsepower which is equivalent to a 20 percent increase in torque capacity. There’s also the order of 6,500-7,000-pound gross weight it can help your machine achieve. To that effect, use the five-pinion front planet as well as a ring gear instead of the original four-pinion front/rear planetary.
  4. Use a larger clutch with an input drum reinforcement sleeve.
    In this case, you can try out a larger 3-4 clutch overrun clutch apply piston while also using a reinforcement sleeve. The result is increased stability and hydraulic holding power. Keep in mind that stability and smoothness are also determined by having less friction and as such, consideration has to be given to the Teflon-impregnated stator support bushing.
  5. Stamped Steel forward clutch apply pistons.
    You have the option of settling for a forward clutch apply pistons that are made of steel or cast piece. When either is compared, one with a stamped steel is the better option because it is less prone to failure while in use. Thus, it should be what you’re out to get while building your 4L60E transmission.
  6. Use more clutches and larger gear band servo pistons.
    For a greater band-apply capacity of around 18 percent, use larger gear band servo pistons. There’s also the need to use seven clutches (3-4 clutches/drum) including the Raybestos forward, reverse input clutches, and overrun. A Raybestos ZPak 3-4 clutch pack, for instance, features materials that reduce friction and as such, help to dissipate heat.
  7. 4L60E Trio series input shafts.
    Another easy 4L60E mod is the use of a trio 4L60E series input shaft in order to improve the transmission’s toughness. These input shafts include the stock 4L60E input shaft, a  heavy-duty 4L60E input shaft (4L75E), and a hardened 4L60E input shaft.
  8. Use a high-volume 13-element pump.
    You can also upgrade your 4L60E to a high-volume 13-element (vane) pump which will handle pressure and volume.
  9. Inspect Transmission soft and hard parts.
    There’s also a need to inspect and upgrade the transmission’s soft and hard parts as the case may be. For the soft parts, this will include clutches, seals, bushings, among others.
  10. Use an Anti-chatter spring.
    You may have gotten a five-pinion rear planet and Raybestos high-performance clutches installed on the 4L60E build, but you can take it one step further. But this time around, it’s with the use of an anti-chatter spring.
  11. Resurface clutch drums.
    Another needful step in your need for more power is to resurface clutch drums in order to provide better band engagement.
  12. Load reverse input clutch drum with Raybestos high-performance clutch frictions.
    In a bid to eliminate clutch slippage and excessive heat that could kill the automatic transmission, you can load the reverse input clutch drum with Raybestos high-performance clutch frictions. Raybestos high-performance frictions are known to provide a firmer grip and without slippage. Nonetheless, it is still normal to have some amount of clutch slippage but when excessive, it calls for it to be checked in order not to shorten transmission life. This is because clutch slippage in itself is the greatest generator of heat.
  13. Use Teflon sealing rings.
    Instead of relying on the usual iron sealing rings that do not last, you can take advantage of Teflon sealing rings. However, Teflon sealing rings are harder to install even though they are tougher and do not break like iron.
  14. Load the reverse input drum onto the input drum.
    Proceed to load the reverse input drum onto the input drum which has already been fitted with a hardened input shaft.
  15. Install the Raybestos Pro Series band.
    As one of the final approaches to the 4L60E modification, install the Raybestos Pro Series band and tie it to the servo. You also need to ensure that it has been properly adjusted.
  16. Install the 13-element high-capacity front pump.
    Right before you install the torque converter, install the 13-element high-capacity front pump. For the torque converter’s installment, you will need to ascertain the stall speed and where the engine’s curve begins in order to get the best performance.

The Reward That Keeps on Rewarding

The 4L60E mods we have outlined above can ensure that whether you are a builder or a car fanatic with some level of experience, you can increase the horsepower and torque capacity of your car.

The result can be quite rewarding starting from a higher level of performance, and reduction in fuel consumption. If you want a more speedy ride, then these 4L60E transmission mods will surely suffice.

Transmission Upgrades That Meet Your Need for Speed

Transmission Upgrades That Meet Your Need for Speed - Gearstar Performance Transmissions

Are you a racer or you’re out to get one of the speedy cars with a strong rear-wheel horsepower? Then you can achieve your need for speed by packing a lightweight gear design and gear ratios that can negotiate various race tracks.

Here’s a fact: manual or automatic transmission upgrades can do a lot of good for your car, starting from an increase in acceleration to ensuring that your transmission components do not break down when you least expect. That is why a lot of people consider transmission upgrades for their system – to ensure that the engine does not produce more torque than the transmission can handle. If that should happen, it could lead to a breakdown of the transmission components, such as the shaft or forks.

Instead, simple transmission upgrades will make sure that your engine can handle more power and have an improved level of performance, as well as average peak power. This, in turn, provides an extra boost in its speed. The increased level of performance can be attributed to enhanced transmission gear ratios, where the engine is spends more time in its sweet power spot. Upgrades can be as important for your car’s engine as changing the transmission oil and filter.

How Transmissions Work

Transmissions are designed in a way that will enable a car to move swiftly with little effort provided by the engine. A transmission contains an input shaft, intermediate shaft, and output shaft, which all rely on a number of gears with different teeth-counts. The gears tell us the transmission ratios – the ratios between the input and output shaft speeds.

The purpose of the intermediate shaft is to enable the input and output shafts to rotate in the same direction. This is because the intermediate shaft’s gears usually have the same number of teeth in comparison to that on the input shaft. Let’s take a look at the real-life performance of these shafts.

If we have a transmission with an input gear of 12 clutch teeth and output gear of 32 teeth, then for every complete revolution of the output gear, the input gear will have to revolve three times (12 * 3 = 36). What this means is a 3.0:1 ratio for the first gear, which will allow the car to move quickly from a point of rest since torque gets multiplied by a factor of 3.

But this ratio might not have an impact on the speed. If the engine is spinning at 6,000 RPM (revolutions per minute), the input shaft will also move at the same speed, even though the output shaft will be revolving at 2,000 RPM (6,000/3.0).

If our calculations are correct, then the car in the first gear will only be able to move at a speed of 45 MPH (miles per hour) per 6,000 RPM.

Looking at it from another perspective, if the same transmission has the same number of teeth on both the input and output gear in its fifth, then both gears will rotate at the same speed. This means a 1.0:1 transmission ratio and as such, the fifth gear input shaft and output shaft will both have a 6,000 RPM. Consequently, the ability of the output shaft to spin three times as fast as the first gear will result in a faster speed.

One can then expect a 45 MPH x 3 (or 135 MPH) for transmission ratios that progress between 3.0-to-1 (first) and 1.0-to-1 (fifth).

Close-Ratio vs. Wide-Ratio Transmissions

The majority of cars have a close-ratio transmission, but that does not mean that there aren’t many others that have a wide-ratio transmission. But what do each of these mean?

A close-ratio transmission has gear ratios that are closer to each other in comparison to a wide-ratio transmission. For instance, if you’re working with a car whose first to fifth gear ratios progress between 2.6:1, 2.2:1, 1.8:1, 1.4:1 and 1:1, then the difference between each gear is 0.4:1. If you have another car whose gear ratios from first to fifth range between 3.0:1, 2.5:1, 2.0:1, 1.5:1 and 1:1, its’ ratio difference will be 0.5:1.

Comparing both cars side by side, you’ll agree that the first car has a close-ratio transmission. Therefore, these types of transmission upgrades from the factory provide more performance-friendly ratios and can handle more power.

Advantages of Close-Ratio Transmissions

The popularity of close-ratio transmission is due to many factors. One of the main ones is lower drop in RPM. When you shift from the first gear to second gear, the RPM drops. In the case of a close-ratio transmission, the decline in engine speed is lesser than that of a wide-ratio transmission.

Here’s what it looks like: for a close-ratio transmission, if your car is moving at a speed of 8,000 RPM and you shift the gear from third to fourth, then the speed would drop to 6,220 RPM. With a wide-ratio transmission, you’ll be expecting a drop to 6,000 RPM.

How to Improve Automatic Transmission Performance

Modifying the factory gear ratios in stock transmissions can improve a car’s speed because less torque is transferred to the drive wheels. This is because stock transmissions aren’t made to provide maximum performance. In general, their function is to optimize fuel consumption and reduce production cost. That being the case, one way to improve automatic transmission performance is to adjust the gear ratio of either the first gear or fourth and fifth gears.

Let’s take a quick look at each case scenario:

    • For the first gear, its numeric ratio can be reduced from around 3.0:1 to a 2.6:1 ratio. This would allow less torque to transfer to the drive’s wheels but increase the speed of the first gear.
    • The second case is one where the numeric ratio of the last gear increases from a 1.0:1 to a 1.2:1 ratio. Cars with modified engines which produce more torque take advantage of aftermarket close-ratio gear sets with a lower numeric ratio at its first gear. There are also aftermarket transmission gear sets which move the last gear ratio to a higher numeric ratio, and it could impact the vehicle’s top-speed capability.

The factory gear is usually enhanced by changing one of these two factors if not both. Other ways on how to make an automatic transmission shift faster include:

Synchs and Dogs

A synchronizer system and dog engagement aim to provide an easy and swift change of gears and they are mainly found in street transmissions. Nonetheless, the synchronizer system used in gear engagement cannot withstand intense driving, which makes their durability questionable.

As an alternative, Dog engagement (which performs louder) is even more durable than the latter when it comes to the demanding conditions of racing. Featuring dogs and cogs attached to the slotted collar ensures that dog boxes can be upshifted either using a clutch or without one.

DCT Transmissions

Japan’s automakers such as Nissan and Mitsubishi, as well as European manufacturers like Ferrari and BMW, have upgraded to the use of dual clutch transmissions (DCT). DCT have replaced the use of three-foot pedals or traditional manual transmissions which were once believed to be a sign of performance.

In recent times, these manufacturers have argued that DCT transmissions that shift for you are quicker since they are sequential, and as such, there is no room for missed shifts. So, if you are in a race, it would do a lot of good not missing shifts, irrespective of the efficiency of the gearbox. It will also take more time to use the left foot and shift arm to move between gears.

Helical or Straight-Cut Gears

Transmission gears can have a tooth cut that is either helical or straight. OEMs and some aftermarket manufacturers offer helical gears, and they perform quietly because the contact between the gears is applied gradually. These gears usually have teeth that mesh at an angle, with thrust forces applied to the bearings – which could encourage wear.

Straight-cut gears have found uses in the aftermarket for racing applications. They are much louder and may be impractical for street driving, especially when considering the noise produced by these gears. However, their teeth are more durable than helical gears since they are thicker.

H-Pattern or Sequential

Manual transmissions have two types of shifting mechanisms: H-pattern and Sequential pattern. The majority of cars with a manual transmission feature the H-pattern shifting mechanism, which allows gears to be changed by jumping to a specific gear. This pattern has been designed to allow the gear to be changed easily.

The sequential pattern promises an ultra-fast gear shift where the gear can be moved in an ascending or descending order. In that sequence, the likelihood for a misshift is low, but can still occur if the selector is not engaged in a proper manner. The use of a sequential pattern shift mechanism with dog engagement can make an automatic transmission shift faster.

Transmission Upgrades That Won’t Disappoint

These are some of the transmission upgrades for a “need for speed” tuning. Your car can move considerably faster with any of the above-mentioned enhancements, and each will give you a performance that is impressive and remarkable. If that’s what you look forward to, then you can give these measures a try and see how well they work to boost the overall speed of your engine.

Are Most High-Performance Cars Automatic?

Are Most High-Performance Cars Automatic? - Gearstar Performance

Audi S6/S8, Lexus ISF, BMW M5/550i, Porsche Panamera, to name but a few are some sports cars with automatic transmission. A lot of people have come to wonder why most high-performance and high horsepower sports cars of this nature are automatic only since there are two basic types of transmission. A wave of confusion has also been stirred among car enthusiasts whether they should buy a manual car or they are better off with an automatic which seems to be trending these days.

Nonetheless, we’ll be outlining the differences between manual and automatic cars and why the latter has become prevalent of late whereas the former has been abandoned and may soon become extinct in the auto industry. Reports, for instance, reveal that as of 2013, 3.9 percent of new cars sold in the U.S in 2013 featured manual transmissions while 67 percent of 2013 model-year cars were released with automatic transmissions.

Why Most High-Performance Cars Automatic

Unarguably, most high-performance cars, sleek rides, sports cars, call it whatever you want are automatic only. The statement above holds true when one considers some of the best sports cars with automatic transmissions outlined below:

  • BMW M3
  • Subaru BRZ
  • Nissan 370Z
  • Subaru WRX
  • Jaguar F-Type
  • Ford Mustang
  • Volkswagen GTI
  • Porsche 911 GT3
  • Chevrolet Camaro
  • Chevrolet Corvette
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Maserati GranTurismo
  • Mini Cooper Countryman

Some of the reasons for the popularity of automatic cars include:

Demand

A number of people who are willing to dish out as high as $100,000 for a car want it to be the fastest and best in design. They are less concerned if it has a manual or automatic transmission as long as it can answer both needs. Potential buyers may also vote that they prefer two pedals instead of having to deal with three since it can get complicated or lead to a waste of time having to switch between gears while in stop-and-go traffic.

On the contrary, several sport enthusiasts have voiced their opinion that they’ll rather have a manual car even though these are the same class of people who are less willing to buy a brand new car. They’ll rather buy a fairly used car knowing fully well that in the next four years, the AMG they had settled for would’ve been less in trend. As a consequence, there are more people willing to dish out thousands of dollars for it in comparison to only a dozen buyers who are willing to buy a brand new stick-shift car.

Speed

When it comes to automatics, all a manufacturer has to worry about is how fast to make the car in question.

The likes of Lexus first paraded a car that could switch gears within 10 milliseconds before it was narrowed down to 5 milliseconds. These days, Lexus claims its car can offer something close if not comparable to lightning strikes, or hummingbird wing flaps. If one considers this, it answers the need of the first class of users for something speedy which in this case, is wrapped up in an automatic design.

Asides Lexus, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, and McLaren have all taken a liking to automatic transmissions and as such, you’ll find their latest cars featuring it instead of a stick-shift.

Cost of Design

The cost of designing an automatic car may sometimes be comparable to that of some manual cars which has drawn the attention of manufacturers to it. In the same vein, you may have noticed that some manual cars cost the same as an automatic in its range.

As a result, manufacturers of cars have targeted the first class of users since it is less expensive (in some cases) to design an automatic car in the first place while also coming with a promise of offering a faster ride.

The Role of a Transmission

If you’re going to move your car from one point to the other, then you’ll most likely want to switch between gears which are a capability provided by the car’s transmission.

The transmission, in this case, is an oil-filled gearbox that consists of parts such as gears, bearings, and shafts. The gears determine the range of speed which the vehicle can move while the shaft transfers the power from the engine to the wheels. Note that there are various gears and each has a specific ratio which it can operate. The lower gears, for example, increase the available power and reduce the speed while the higher gears reduce the power but increase the speed. As a result of this varying gear ratio, the wheels do not function at the same speed as the engine, and power and speed are also evenly distributed efficiently.

Also, torque passes through the input shaft into the transmission, and then passes through the gears and is sent out through the output shaft. It is then passed on to the wheels and the mode of transfer is dependent on the design of the car such as front, rear, and a mid-engined. Now that’s out of the way, let’s show you what the manual and automatic transmissions entails.

Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions

The two main types of transmissions you’ll find in cars are manual and automatic transmissions. The major difference between automatic and manual transmission is the method that is used to switch between gears. In the case of automatics, the car changes its gear when you shift while manual cars allow you to shift between gears with the help of a clutch and gas pedals.

Nevertheless, both modes of transmissions help to transfer the engine’s power to the drive axle even though each takes a different approach to achieve the feat. Check it out:

Manual

Let’s say you were born in the 19th century, then you’ll agree that a majority of cars back then had a manual transmission also known as a stick shift. What was prevalent at that time, is a shift lever that is vertically placed in the car’s center console and connected to the transmission which enables the gear to be changed The change in gear allows the speed of the car to be manually controlled and as such, the driver can determine how fast or slow the car is at any point in time.

Now, a pedal is also required in order to make a quick switch between gears where the clutch located between the engine and the transmission will need to be released, a gear selected, and the clutch used again. Due to these processes, one will need a good knowledge of how to switch between gears even though it a lot of time is not required before they can master it.

Automatic

As the name implies, most of the work has already been done on your behalf with Automatics. Prior to this time, owning a car of this nature was considered a luxury which is no longer the case in 2019 since a number of entry-level cars also feature an automatic transmission. That aside, two types of automatic transmissions have been provided and these are the traditional automatic and dual-clutch automatic. A traditional automatic has its transmission connected to the car’s engine through the hydraulic torque converter.

On the contrary, the dual-clutch automatic uses a pair of clutches to change gears even without the driver manually inputting it. The cars ability to switch gears can be attributed to the monitoring of the speed of the car, the engine’s revolution, and the throttle pedal’s position. Despite this, there are still automatic cars that enable a manual shifting of gear with the use of a shift lever that is located behind the steering’s wheel.

Which Type of Transmission Best Suits Your Needs?

In this section, we’ll be comparing the manual and automatic transmission side by side to show you that where one fails, the other makes up for it.

Mode of Operation

A manual transmission comes with the promise of giving you greater control over your car since you can manipulate it in several ways as you deem fit. You can downshift, slowdown, or even stop your car and there’s this perception that they allow more of the engine’s power to be transmitted to the drive wheels and it could do a lot of good in terms of faster acceleration.

Alternatively, you can be more focused on the road with an automatic transmission that does most of the work for you. You’re also less likely to get fatigued easily if you’re in traffic that tends to move, slow, stop and cycle again.

Cheaper to Maintain

A manual car will definitely be cheaper in comparison to an automatic ride and the cost of maintaining it will be lesser since its technology is less complex. But keep in mind that you may still have to replace the clutch occasionally which costs a couple of dollars to do so.

On the contrary, an automatic car that is easier and more comfortable to drive still comes with a higher cost of maintenance. Featuring more advanced technology and machinery will need a great level of expertise to be fixed if there’s ever a need for it and an extra cost.

Ease of Usage

Those who are willing to choose an automatic car over a manual one have pinpointed it to its ease of usage. While operating a car with a manual transmission is easy, it is easier to maneuver one with an automatic transmission since your limbs do not have to grow accustomed to using the gear and clutch.

There’s also a certain level of difficulty posed to less experienced drivers while navigating steep inclines. The latter may be the least of your worry with an automatic car since you can conveniently go up and down a hill.

Your Need for Speed

In terms of speed, an automatic car is a clear winner since the dual-clutch automatic gearbox, for instance, can switch between gears in a matter of milliseconds. If you were going to use your hand to do this manually, then it’ll take at least 3 seconds if not more to get the desired gear in place. Therefore, a computer program embedded in automatics can be considerably faster than the movement of a human.

For more efficiency and performance, a number of automatic cars released of late feature six (2014 Ford Focus automatic version) to eight-speed transmissions which is an advancement from the four-speed automatics which were prevalent a few years ago. Consequently, the higher the number of gears, then the better the acceleration and optimized fuel consumption.

Now that you know the differences between both, you can now make a decision if you should get a manual car or try a car such as the Ferrari with an automatic transmission

Conclusion

Manual cars may have gained popularity a century ago, but the ever-changing trends in technology are moving to the automatic realm where things are done more easily, efficiently, and faster in order to boost the level of performance and people’s productivity. If you were torn between the decision of settling for a manual or automatic car, that should be a thing of the past after taking a closer look at our manual vs automatic transmission systems for cars.

10 Mods That’ll Make Your Car Faster (and 10 That Won’t)

10 Mods That'll Make Your Car Faster (and 10 That Won't) - Gearstar Performance

Don’t you just hate it when your car runs slow? If that’s a yes, then a good knowledge of some easy modifications that’ll make your car faster and how to implement them will ensure it’s a thing of the past.

A fast ride is every car lover’s dream come true and if you’re enthusiastic about yours, that phrase may be a perfect description of your expectations. Look at it this way: your car can be an object of pride, something to show off, and even give you that rush of adrenaline as you race along the road.

But wait! What happens if you’ll rather do the work yourself at home without a third-party tampering with your much-admired baby, would that be possible?

Definitely! Slide under the hood, install some panels, revamp its engine and carry out several other manipulations.

And guess what? Your machine will sound new, run faster, and be several steps closer to your dream car if not there.

On the other hand, there a lot of modifications on the Internet which may do a better job at being a waste of time than actually giving you the desired results.

Therefore, we’ll be outlining those that work and those that don’t in order to keep you focused on what’s really relevant to help you achieve your goal.

10 Easy Mods to Make Your Car Faster

There are several easy, affordable ways to make your car faster, louder, and better even if you’re at home while also adhering to local laws, limits, and regulations. If the latter is what you’re out to get, then give each of these a try:

1. Cold Air Intake

We’ve had many people ask, “does an air intake make your car faster?” It sure does, but here’s the interesting thing: cold air is what is required because it is denser than warm air and will, therefore, introduce more air into the motor in order to boost its torque and horsepower. With more condensed air, your engine can breathe better, and the fuel can also be burnt efficiently which helps to push your ride forward. That being the case, cold air intake is one of the easiest mods to make your car faster since air and fuel enable your car to accelerate in the first place.

2. NOS System

Installing a NOS (Nitrous oxide) in your car can help to supply the oxygen needed in short bursts for combustion and to generate more power in your engine. On the other hand, doing this in certain states may be illegal which brings the need to put into consideration if it is allowed in the region where you reside. If it is, one more thing to give a thought to while you are upgrading the amount of air in your motor is ensuring the proper ratio between the gas and fuel in order to make your efforts futile. By doing this, you would’ve successfully achieved the purpose of trying to boost the cool air levels in the first place.

3. Supercharger

A supercharger compresses air and forces it into the engine, thus you can also generate the extra power for your car through its use. However, using a forced air induction system that allows more cool air and fuel to enter the motor may require advanced reconstruction of your engine. The reason is, the system consists of a chain, belt, and a crankshaft and as such, it is a major modification that may need some level of expertise for its installation.

4. Fuel System Upgrade

More air, more air, but what about more fuel in each cylinder? Hey, that’s just as essential if you must ramp your car up to the desired speed in order to prevent pre-detonation. What are we getting at? A fuel system upgrade with the use of high-flow injectors, high-flow filters, high-flow fuel pumps, bigger gas lines, will allow more fuel to be consumed in your car which may not really sound economical, but it does the job just right in giving you the desired speed. Moreover, it’ll do no good bumping the cool air supply without pairing it with a proper fuel-to-air ratio that will aid in combustion.

5. True Dual Exhaust

Did you know an exhaust system can make your car faster and louder? Well, it can! A true dual exhaust system, for instance, is an exhaust that starts all the way from the back and splits into two tailpipes. It can also serve as an alternative to a catalytic converter. What the system does is to facilitate the smooth flow of the exhaust through the engine thereby optimizing the power of the car. Now, before you dive right into it, your best bet is to carry out research on the street legalities of a modification of this nature since it could potentially impact on your emission system.

6. Drivetrain

A drivetrain promises to make your car faster and better because it converts the power generated in the motor to the energy that can be used by your car’s wheels. As a consequence, boosting the power of your car with the supply of cool air and more fuel combustion also brings about the need to upgrade the car’s drivetrain. The drivetrain components that will need to be upgraded include flywheels, clutches, differentials, gears, and driveshafts.

7. Tires

Another easy, affordable way which your car can be made to drive faster is to use nitrogen tires which are less susceptible to air and water vapor. Keep in mind that the weight of the car is supported by the tires and the speed of the motor will also be supported by what’s touching the ground. For this reason, you need great tires that have been properly inflated to handle the corners and twist as you move your vehicle across the country.

8. Brakes

Now don’t squirm when you hear brakes since they’re primarily used to halt the car. However, high-performance brakes are just as important to help you drive faster because, with their help, you can stop efficiently and quickly switch your foot to the throttle to resume your driving spree.

9. Suspension

If you’ll like to take it one step further, there’s the suspension and chassis that also need to be upgraded to handle the increase in power which the engine will be giving out. Accordingly, parts of these components that may require an upgrade include tie rods, tower braces, sway bars, axels, h-brackets, and roll cages

10. Performance Chipset

The latest models of some cars come with a performance chipset which controls the ratio of gas combustion, anti-lock brakes, timing, and other factors. These chips used in stock fuel injection systems limit the amount of air and fuel that can be supplied to the motor. Likewise, there are custom performance chips on the market which can be installed in the car in order to override the car’s factory settings and give the car some level of speed.

10 Mods That Are a Waste of Time

Now that you know what’s effective, it’s time to show you the some of the modifications that are a waste of time which you may do well to avoid entirely. It’ll save you the time, effort, and money.

1. Spark Plugs

There is the general belief that the addition of performance plugs could significantly provide more power to the engine since they ignite the air and fuel mixture in the engine. While that may be true, these plugs need to be coupled with the addition of air and fuel in the motor to make them useful. Thus, before dishing out the cash to get one of these, ensure that you have created a suitable environment for them to thrive.

2. Big Rims

Big rims are a great pair of accessory for your car’s heels, but they may be specifically tailored to a specific car which means, it can do a great job in boosting the car’s speed even though the same cannot be said for every car. If the rims are not a perfect fit for your car, then it will do little or nothing to impact on its speed.

3. Rear Wings

Rear wings became a thing after they were featured in the movie, Fast and Furious. What these wings do, is to ensure your car wheels are still on the road especially if it’s moving with a lot of power. You don’t want it bouncing on and off the road thereby offering a non-seamless driving experience. Thus, the rear wings are beneficial in this aspect and not really when it comes to helping your car move faster.

4. Body Kits

Body kits also got a widespread adoption after they were also featured in Fast and Furious. These kits are sometimes made with cheap materials and may not even be the perfect fit for the car which will allow the car to move fast.

5. Exhaust Tip

While there is a true dual exhaust which can boost the performance level of your car, there is an exhaust tip, on the other hand, making it loud. Now the choice is left for you to make between a faster car whose exhaust has a purpose or a louder one which some people have also sought to achieve.

6. Higher-Grade Fuel

A particular car is designed to optimally use a certain grade fuel and that being so, using a higher-grade fuel than what your car has been designed to handle may not cut it. You must ensure that your car can support the higher-grade fuel you are about to fill it up with it if not it could knock the engine. Similarly, a high-performance car will definitely be able to handle the high-grade fuel and allow your vehicle to run smoothly without feeling like you’ve launched a spaceship.

7. Fuel Additives

One more trick that has been employed in making cars run faster, is the addition of car additives which are not really as effective on regular cars as people have been led to believe. In this case, it is more advisable to run the car in a way which the manufacturer has explicitly stated in the manual.

8. Short Ram Intakes

A short ram air intake with the use of a short pipe will only draw hot air around the motor which is not what is necessary to speed up your car. Hot air cannot boost the speed in comparison to cold air which can do a much better job which, therefore, makes a cold air intake a better option since the filter will be as far as possible from the hot engine.

9. Adding Stickers

Many people believe the use of stickers will add horsepower to their car, but that is not the case. Nonetheless, the same cannot be said about Car Throttle stickers which can add 20bhp which is not advisable.

10. Too Large Exhaust System

A large exhaust will allow your car’s engine to breathe easily and also free its performance. Now, while that may be a good thing, using a box that is overly too large will only draw the attention of everyone around you since a smaller one would’ve done the job just as well without being a nuisance.

Conclusion

Your “need for speed” and to be “fast and furious” can be actualized with the 10 modifications to make a car drive faster and better which we’ve outlined in our guide. While you’re at it, you also know what to keep in mind in order to prevent any potential problems that could arise through certain modifications. So, go ahead and boost the cool air levels, fuel, NOS system, supercharger, etc. and your car will be a wonder to you and an onlooker.

Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions: Auto Industry’s Greatest Rivalry

Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions: Auto Industry's Greatest Rivalry - Gearstar Performance

It was the 1930s, the era of the Great Depression, a time when America was facing hopelessness and desperation as the prospects of war slowly grew to a boiling point over in Europe. And, amidst all that, the automatic transmission was born.

First brought to market by General Motors and popularized by the Hydra-Matic and its successors, automatic transmissions differed from their manual counterparts through the addition of a self-sufficient hydraulic fluid-based automatic shifting system, allowing cars to shift gears without driver input, versus the classic manual or stick shift system.

Ever since automatic transmissions hit the market, the same debate has been raging on for decades: which drives better? Which goes faster? Which transmission type, between the automatic and the manual, is the superior one?

Before we go into what the answer is and why, let’s delve a little deeper into the debate.

What’s Under the Hood?

Car transmissions are pretty complicated when you get down to the molecular level, but superficially, it’s simple stuff. Fuel and air go into the engine, things go boom, and the energy generated by the combustion travels through the input shaft into a metal case filled with differently-sized gears. The torque from the input shaft is translated into power through the gears that the transmission currently has engaged, out through the output shaft and into the rest of the car, depending on how it’s built.

But not all transmissions are made equal. Some have clutches, others have torque converters. Some work very differently from others, even if the end goal is the same – and little efficiencies here and there, such as optimized gear ratios, better torque conversion, improved cooling and better material can turn a 30-year-old piece of junk into a tranny powerful enough for modern-day drag racing. Between the big types, though, you’re largely looking at three major transmissions: the automatic, the manual, and the continuously variable transmission. There are others, of course, but today we’ll just tackle the first two. So, first up, our introductions:

The manual transmission came first, and its history goes back to the days of the very first real gearbox. The concept is simple, even though the application may have changed throughout the years: a shift lever attached to the transmission lets you shift from one gear/speed to another, but only after the clutch, which can be found between the transmission and the engine, is released. The clutch holds the current gear in place – to shift with a stick, you have to disengage the clutch by pushing down on a pedal next to the brake, then reengage the clutch by letting go.

Driving stick is a matter of several things, including knowing when to shift to which gear, and timing your clutch to prevent too much wear-and-tear. Engaging the clutch too slowly will wear the disc out – on the other hand, engage the clutch too quickly while stationary, and the engine might stall.

In the other corner, we have the automatic transmission. GM and Ford first came out with these – transmissions that were built largely like manual transmissions, except that they allow for an automatic shift in gears without any input from the driver, through a monitoring system which takes into account the car’s speed, engine rpm and throttle pedal.

In the past, this was done hydraulically – today, it’s all electronics. Most automatic transmissions come with a little computer in them. You can still pick up an old 7004R or any other among a series of powerful non-electronic automatic transmissions, and refurbish them for modern use – but the concept is the same.

An automatic transmission comes with a host of convenient quality-of-life benefits, including less maintenance (generally speaking) and improved, smoother driving in stop-and-go traffic. It’s easier to drive an automatic as well, given that you don’t have to worry about the clutch at all, and you don’t have to run the risk of stalling the engine. Under heavier engine load, however, automatic transmissions can get a little sluggish – and if mismatched or left non-optimized, plenty automatic transmissions forego the whole “smooth” driving experience.

Manual Transmissions vs. Automatic Transmissions

Manual transmissions involve the use of a clutch and a shift lever to switch gears, and you can’t rely on the car to do it for you. Automatic transmissions use a series of electronic sensors and hydraulic fluid to shift gears automatically. In the past, manual transmissions were the better answer for sheer performance and fuel efficiency – the ability to determine when to shift gears gave manual transmission drivers the upper hand on fuel, and a manual transmission handled well accelerated faster.

Today, technology has basically caught up with the stick shift, and there’s little reason to go manual if your intent is to leave the other driver in the wind. Automatic transmissions come in various types, but they’re winning in almost every single department: there are more automatic transmissions out there than manual transmissions, and the newest models are just as fuel efficient and accelerate just as well.

Who’s Winning the Race?

The race between the automatic and manual transmission is wholly based on the year it takes place in. If we take the world’s fastest cars, one from each camp, then the automatic transmission is the flat-out winner.

Automatic transmissions have long caught up with stick shift manual transmissions in both acceleration and fuel efficiency, and given the massive popularity of automatic transmissions in America, the overall cost difference has gotten drastically smaller. The wear and tear on automatic vs. manual transmissions is also a matter of experience, as a manual

Sure, it’s still definitely more expensive to grab a complex CVT, but in some cases, you can find cars that cost more with a manual transmission than with an automatic.

However, manual transmissions are still fun to drive – and if you’re limiting your options to older transmissions, then a competent driver behind the wheel of a stick shift can still pull ahead in a race. That being said, there is still one thing the manual has over the automatic: coordination and skill. Driving stick is still a skill, and a good skill to have. And if you’re sick of the clutch, just grab an automatic manual transmission.

Upgrading a 4L70E Transmission

Upgrading a 4L70E Transmission - Gearstar Performance

The 4L70E is one of several GM-produced electronic automatic transmissions developed as a successor to the Turbo-Hydramatic line of transmissions, some of which continue to be excellent transmissions for plenty of performance builds looking for a good stock transmission with a TV cable over electronics.

Alongside the 4L60E on one spectrum, and the 4L80E on the other, the 4L70E sits between two ends of spectrum of transmission needs.

Depending on what you want, it may be an excellent transmission and just the thing you’re looking for. It’s all a question of specialization. Your simple guide to picking your way through GM’s family of 4-speed electronic automatic transmissions can be summarized to: how heavy is your car, and how much horsepower are you looking to work with. Heavier builds steer towards the larger, more imposing, power-hungry and powerful 4L80E, and the smaller your car is, the more you should be skewing towards the 4L60E.

But life isn’t always simple, and in this case, there’s more to it than just that. Here’s a quick little rundown on the 4L70E, its relative history in the world of GM transmissions, and its potential – potential that transmission experts can take, unlock, and transform into pure performance.

History of the 4L70E

GM’s transmissions play a big part in the history of American automobile manufacturing, and alongside Ford (a “friendly” competition that survives to this day), the automatic transmissions of the late 70s and early 80s pioneered the inclusion of accessible overdrive – a new gear made more accessible to transmissions after that point, designed to allow a car to maintain speed while cutting down on RPM and fuel usage, for a much better fuel economy.

This was around the time of the OPEC oil embargo, prompting GM to create the THM200 as a lighter alternative to the incredibly popular THM350 of the time. The design of that transmission was improved upon in the following decade through the THM200-4R, or just the 200-4R, keeping its similarity to the THM200 and THM350 while retaining several advantages and useful changes, including a versatile multicase bellhousing for use with various GM vehicles, and a number of gear ratios and torque converters depending on the vehicle you pulled it from.

Following the success of the 200-4R, the next-in-line kept the new designation, and the 700R4 transmission was born in 1982. This is the first of our new automatic transmissions, as the 700R4 eventually was renamed into the 4L60, in keeping with a new GM naming scheme, in 1990. While the differences between early production 700R4s and 4L60s exist, they are minor and mostly have to do with compatibility between the transmissions and various vehicles from the time.

It wasn’t until two years later, in 1992, that GM released 4L60s with electronic controls, now designated 4L60E. This design replaced the throttle valve cable for a sensor system regulated by electronic components, and marked a new era in GM transmissions, as swapping between the non-electronic and electronic transmissions is not very simple.

Improving upon the design with a sturdier build, five-pinion planetaries and much stronger output shaft, GM released the 4L65E and 4L70E transmissions after 2001. Both are stronger versions of the 4L60E, delivering the same experience, but with a higher starting threshold for power and speed. The only difference is the speed sensor located in the pump of the 4L70E, and the convenience you personally have in picking between one and the other depending on your available resources, market prices, and any existing deals.

4L70E Transmission Stats

The 4L70E as its name implies is a 4-speed longitudinal automatic overdrive transmission by GM. The E in its designation indicates that it uses electronic controls over a throttle valve cable, and it sets itself apart from the previous 4L60E by providing a sturdier build, including both five-pinion planetaries over the 4L60E’s four-pinion planetaries, and an improved output shaft. Its outer case material is aluminum, and it clocks in at about 133 lbs. dry, without any transmission fluid.

Although it is improved, it shares the same stock case design with the 4L60E, and its close cousin the 4L65E. All 4L__Es utilize a torque converter lock, and the 4L70E is no exception.

The gear ratios for the 4L70E are:

  • 1st gear: 3.06
  • 2nd gear: 1.62
  • 3rd gear: 1.00
  • 4th gear: 0.70

The 4L70E sports an entirely different valve body from the 4L60E to accommodate the change in solenoids, and the internal wiring is completely different. Care needs to be taken when deciding how to install a 4L70E in cars that originally used an older GM transmission – while it often bolts just in, the car may not be compatible with the electronic components in the 4L70E if it’s a model before 1996. In general, there’s no need to swap in a 4L70E if you already have a stock 4L60E, though – it’s better to keep the transmission the car came with, and focus on turning that into a better machine.

4L70E vs. 4L60E vs. 4L80E

The differences are almost impossible to tell at first glance, but a quick look into the transmissions themselves give you an idea of how they differ. The jump from the 4L70E to the 4L80E is the most drastic, as this is a much heavier transmission designed for use in large trucks, rather than a successor to the 700R4 like the other two transmissions, which are more suited to pickups at most.

The 4L80E weighs 178 lbs. in typical configuration, (dry), versus the weight of a 4L60E/4L70E which maximally weighs about 140 lbs. Your best bet towards visually distinguishing between the 4L60E and the 4L70E is checking the service parts identification sticker if it’s the stock transmission in a GM vehicle. Look for M70, which denotes the 4L70E. Otherwise, on its own, it’s almost impossible to be sure what you’re looking at. They all use the same oil pans and the designations are interchangeable depending on the year and build of the transmission.

Between the 4L60E and the 4L70E, the biggest difference is time. The 4L70E is a straight upgrade to the 4L60E, appearing on the market several years after the 4L60E has had time to shine. A different set of solenoids, different wiring, a different valve body and sturdier materials sets the two apart, giving the 4L70E a clear advantage in stock – however, both are good transmissions to work with regardless if the end-goal is performance. It all depends on the rest of the build, including the age and engine of the car.

Overview of GM’s Stronger 4L65E Transmission

Overview of GM's Stronger 4L65E Transmission - Gearstar Performance

The 4L65E transmission is built for Chevrolet, as an improved iteration of the 4L60E, and a successor to the 700R4. Unlike its predecessors, the 4L60E and later 4L65E is an electronic automatic transmission, with a five-pinion gearset, overdrive, and a stock torque limit of about 380 ft.-lbs. torque.

With some elbow grease, the right aftermarket parts and a good deal of experience with GM transmissions, a dedicated and qualified specialist can turn the 4L65E into a workhorse of a transmission, with a total 650 horsepower and matching 650 ft.-lbs. of torque. The 4L65E is ideal for such a high amount of torque, as its five-pinion design, 3-4 clutch and improved hydraulic fluid capacity make it a clear winner over the 4L60E for heavier builds with more required power.

But it takes more than that to justify buying a 4L65E over another transmission, or even figuring out which one you’ve currently got in your own Chevy. From the Turbo-Hydramatic 700R4, to the 4L60E, the 4L65E, and more recent 4L70E, GM has come up with several different ways to refine the design of the old-time classic TH350. However, as similar as these transmissions might be, they each come with different gear ratios, valve bodiestorque converters, and more. Some are interchangeable – others aren’t.

History of the GM 4L65E Transmission

The history of the 4L65E goes as far back as the 1960s, when General Motors introduced the Turbo-Hydramatic 350 as a new and improved automatic transmission, a successor to the Powerglide. The TH350 could be found under the hood in most GM trucks and rear-wheel drive cars up until the mid-80s, due to its reliability, sturdy build, and compact size.

While small at under 22 inches in length and roughly 120lbs in weight, it was a transmission that at the time packed enough of a punch to drive a Jeep. Typically produced without a torque controller until the TH350-C in ’79, the transmission was eventually succeeded by GM’s 700R4.

The 700R4 made the leap into the four-speed automatic transmission market, introducing overdrive as a new feature for the more fuel-conscious America of the early 80s and beyond. With fuel prices up and the automobile still in hot demand, the 700R4 allowed GM vehicles to ride more efficiently, while incorporating many of the features that made the TH350 so great, including durability and power.

While still being a non-electronic transmission, access to overdrive and general better fuel efficiency allowed the 700R4 to help GM meet stricter emission guidelines, and help save customers money on fuel costs. To this day, aftermarket modifications allow the 700R4 to act as a premium stock transmission to modify and stick into big block racing vehicles without electronic controls.

Designated as a 4L60 in the early 90s (after its 4 speeds, longitudinal positioning and 6000 lbs. GVW), the 700R4 was eventually succeeded by the 4L60E in 1997, GM’s first automatic overdrive transmission with electronic controls. Sporting the same length, weight and overall bellhousing, the main difference between the two was the introduction of electronic controls, and an adapted valve body and actuation system to accompany the new solenoids and actuators.

Different versions of the 4L60E hit the market over the course of its lifetime, differentiated through their tail housing, and presence or lack of removable bellhousing. Due to a change in solenoids and a six-bolt tail shaft, 4L60E transmissions built after 1996 are incompatible and non-interchangeable with older models.

Finally, a stronger updated version of the 4L60E was introduced in 2001 with a five-pinion planetary carrier and improved input shaft. Also sporting a different torque controller, the 4L65E comes with a hardened sun shell and has an overall better potential as a big block performance transmission due to its planetary carrier.

Specs on the 4L65E

Sporting a five-pinion planetary carrier, a 300mm input shaft over the 4L60E’s 298mm input shaft, and a better 3-4 clutch, the 4L65E comes with the following gear ratios:

  • 1st gear: 3. 06
  • 2nd gear: 1.62
  • 3rd gear: 1
  • 4th gear: 0.69

Ultimately, the upper limit for the 4L65E even with a lot of tender, loving care is 700hp – anything beyond that is better off swapping for a 4L85E, which although much stronger, is also pricier and more power-hungry.

What Sets the 4L65E Transmission Apart?

Identifying a 4L65E from other similar transmissions, such as the 4L60/700R4 and the 4L60E, takes a little practice and know-how. Despite a thicker input shaft and a different sun shell, identifying the 4L65E without opening it up requires knowledge of the alternate designations for the transmissions (M30 for the 4L60E, M32 for the 4L65E), and a few key cosmetic differences.

Older 4L60E transmissions come with a four-bolt tail housing, versus the 4L65E’s six-bolt. However, some later 4L60E transmissions also came with a six-bolt tail housing, as well as a removable bellhousing. Performance versions of the 4L60E are sometimes also designated with M32.

Ultimately, your best bet towards identifying a 4L65E is to bring it to a shop. You can check transmission codes, designations and even try and gauge the difference between input shafts, but the key differences are only visible inside the transmission.

Pushing the Limits

The beautiful thing about aftermarket parts is that even a transmission that operates on a mediocre level performance-wise can be brought up to spec with a full redo. When it comes to a custom-built 4L65E transmission, there’s a lot that can be done – from completely replacing and improving the torque converter, to installing new vanes, pump rings, thrust washers, bearings and solenoids.

Replace the input shaft, outfit the tranny with a completely revamped electronic control system and speed sensor, a custom shift kit, better cooler to prevent overheating under pressure and extra capacity pan for up to 14 quarts of transmission fluid, and you’ve got yourself a completely different piece of equipment.

Ultimately, choosing the right transmission for your car – and choosing the right set of custom modifications to said transmission – is a job in and of itself. You must consider the size and traction of your tires, the power your engine develops, the exact purpose of the car and the kind of performance you’re looking for, etc.

In some respects, a 4L60E might beat out a 4L65E simply because it happened to be what your car came with, or because you got a much better deal for it from the boneyard. Choosing between the two is a matter of circumstance, and budget. If you don’t need the extra power afforded by an extra pinion, jumping to a 4L65E might not be worth it. On the other hand, a heavier build seeking more torque and horsepower would do better with something stronger.